See the World with Fresh Eyes
Your eyes are at work from the moment you wake up to the moment you close them to go to sleep. They take in tons of information about the world around you — shapes, colours, movements, and more. Then they send the information to your brain for processing so the brain knows what's going on outside of your body.
By far the most important organs of sense are our eyes. We perceive up to 80 per cent of all impressions by means of our sight. And if other senses such as taste or smell stop working, it's the eyes that best protect us from danger.
Nowadays, we always seem to be looking at screens, TV, PC, tablets, phones……... We are always doing something which requires the constant attention of our eyes to do a very important job. In addition, especially as we are not getting out much nowadays, our eyes are limited to what they see in variation and distance. Your eyesight can really feel the strain.
Can Yoga help with my Eye Health?
YOGA specifically activates the ocular muscles that support every day eye movement. Just as other forms of Yoga improve flexibility in the body, Eye YOGA helps to improve flexibility of the 6 key eye muscles.
There is credible scientific evidence to support that Eye YOGA is a natural cure for improving eyesight. In fact, not just Eye YOGA can help the eyes, some studies show that gentle exercise such as walking can reduce pressure in the eyeball by 20%.
The vision occupies approximately 40% of the brain’s capacity, no wonder we need to close our eyes to relax and sleep. Four of our 12 cranial nerves are dedicated exclusively to vision alongside two other vision related nerves. Contrast this with the cardiac and digestive functions which require only one cranial nerve to control both.
So, what does the ancient yogic texts say about the eyes?
Swami Sivananda, Spiritual Teacher (1887-1963), he was also a physician and Homeopath, considered sight the most abused of our five senses.
In the first chapter of Yogasana, he describes an extensive series of exercises. Many age-related vision problems stem from a gradual loss of flexibility and tone in the eye muscles, which get locked into habitual patterns and lose their ability to focus at different distances. These eyes exercise aim to maintain flexibility or to regain it where it has been lost. He notes some important points, literally that can help us to use the eyes more efficiently.
The Drishtis – are 9 focus points which allow us to use our eyes correctly during our Yoga practice:
tip of the nose; the thumbs; the hands;
the toes; the navel; the brow centre;
skyward; far left; far right Exercises incorporating some Drishtis
1. Sitting in a relaxed posture, pick a point in the distance and focus on it
2. Extend your arm and put your thumb right underneath the point of concentration
3. Shift your focus between the tip of your thumb and the distant point
4. Alternate rhythmically between the two points
5. Repeat as many times as it’s comfortable up to 10 repetitions at a pace that suits you
6. Softly close the eyes, let them rest and then rub hands together to gather energy, place palms over eyes and allow the prana to filter from the hands through your eyelids.
This practice helps something called the ‘ciliary body’ (1) which adjusts the lens of the eye to retain its natural flexibility. Forming this basic exercise counteract stiffness form through habitual I focus patterns Trataka According to the Hatha Yoga Pradipika (2), Trataka ‘cures diseases of the eyes and removes tiredness’, it also helps to focus the mind, is calming and is a good preparation for meditation. The practice is mainly associated with the candle gazing but actually any external point of focus can be used. The technique is to have a soft gaze at the candle or object without blinking until the eyes water, then to close eyes softly and observe what is seen on the inside of the eyelid. To enhance the effect an attempt can be made to centralise the image at the brow centre until it fades naturally.
Our eyes are so very precious and we could all definitely benefit from increasing and improving our focus on our eye health. By incorporating some of these principles into our YOGA practice routines, like any other part of our body our eyes have the potential to feel good and stay healthy.
Other Useful Eye Yoga exercises include: 1. deliberately and repeatedly looking up and down and then left to right 2. visualising a clock-face and taking the eyes slowly clockwise then anticlockwise 3. softly closing the eyes for several seconds to replace the moisture on the eyeballs 4. warming the palms by rubbing them and placing them over the closed eyes allowing the eyes to open up into the warmth and energy of the hands 5. Then, focusing on the tip of your nose then on something in the distance and repeating this slowly 6. Repeated blinking can help to reduce the stress response to induce a calming of the mind and aid sleep – this technique is used in trauma release practices.
These practices can be enjoyed anytime, in class we use them during the Spring practices as the Wood element of Spring arises which connects to the Liver & Gallbladder Meridians and the sense relates to the Eyes.
In his book The Way of the Five Elements, John Kirkwood explains
"So any conditions that affect the eyes, such as poor vision, eye infections, red or itchy eyes, are indications of an imbalance in the Wood Element. When we become jaded or bored by life, or we are just going through the motions in a routine way, our looking becomes dulled and we do not really see. The arrival of Spring and its Element of Wood gives us the support to see the world with fresh eyes.
(1) The ciliary body is a part of the eye that includes the ciliary muscle, which controls the shape of the lens, and the ciliary epithelium, which produces the aqueous humor. The aqueous humor is produced in the non-pigmented portion of the ciliary body.
(2) The Hatha Yoga Pradipika is the hatha yoga text that has historically been studied within yoga teacher training programmes, alongside texts on classical yoga such as Patanjali's Yoga Sutras. In the twenty-first century, research on the history of yoga has led to a more developed understanding of hatha yoga's origins.